Vaiola Kerisome Head, c. 1955

From Journal of Pacific Adventist History.

Head, Vaiola Malama (Kerisome) (c.1890–1963)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: January 29, 2020 | Last Updated: March 29, 2023

Vaiola Kerisome, usually known as Malama among her people, was a translator and missionary briefly among the New Zealand Maoris and mainly among her people of Niue.

Early experience

Vaiola Kerisome was born on Niue Island about 1890. When she was very young Malama was adopted by Makaea Kerisome and his wife, Vihimanogi. Makaea took his family to Samoa where he served as a teacher for the London Missionary Society from 1895 to 1901. The family then returned to Niue Island. After their return, when Malama was about twelve years old, she was the subject of an arranged marriage, according to custom, with a man named Pauaki. After some time Pauaki contracted leprosy and passed away.1

Malama came in contact with Seventh-day Adventist missionaries Joseph and Julia Steed who, in 1908, were new arrivals in Samoa and Nuie. The Steeds introduced Malama to the Adventist Church, incurring some persecution from her family.2 Believing it was beneficial to transfer Malama, the Steeds arranged for her to go to Tonga and spend time with Adventist teacher Ella Boyd. This arrangement proved mutually beneficial. Malama provided company and some protection to an isolated young teacher far from her homeland. Ella continued Malama’s education and became a role model for her. At the end of 1908 Ella and Malama sailed together for Australia.3

In Australasia

Ella was under appointment to the Avondale School for Christian Workers. Malama enrolled as a student and assisted with translation work, including assistance for Steed when he returned from Samoa to have literature printed in the Samoan and Niuan languages.4 Her work provided part payment for her tuition. Any shortfall in her fees was covered by donations from Seventh-day Adventist youth in Queensland.5

Early in 1914 it was arranged for Vai to return to Niue to assist Ephraim and Agnes Giblett in mission work. She was to sail to Auckland, meet the Giblett family there, and continue with them to Niue.6 However, on arrival in Auckland all plans were altered. The Gibletts were unable to proceed because one of their children became critically ill.7 Vai was reassigned to assist Reginald and Emily Piper in pioneer evangelism among the Maoris, mainly in the Tauranga area.8 Vai had a winsome nature. Piper said she broke down a lot of prejudice.9 She engaged in this work for approximately twelve months before returning to Niue.

A Missionary at Home

In 1915 Malama began a self-supporting elementary school at Alofi, Niue, after the style of Boyd’s school.10 She was granted a missionary licentiate11 but it is unknown whether any remuneration was attached to it. The following year Septimus and Edith Carr came to establish a mission base.12 He built a chapel in which Malama conducted her school13 and, later, a sewing class for older girls.14 The school had morphed into a Sabbath School class of about seventy youngsters by 1928, and she held a youth class on Sundays. By that stage she was teaching classes in a government school throughout the week and translating reading primers for her pupils. There was not a day when she was free of teaching.15

About 1923/24 Malama married a local trader named Alan Head.16 They adopted two girls, Ida and Edith. Ida was a child of Malama's sister. Edith was a child of Malama's brother.17 Eventually, as adults, Ida and Edith settled in New Zealand.18

Malama’s Sabbath School grew to well over a hundred children. She possessed a sweet singing voice and led them in her translations of English hymns and tunes. Church members in Australasia regularly sent her supplies of memory verse cards and picture rolls.19 A pedal organ was also donated from Australia in response to her request.20 Any tithe, offerings, and mission appeal funds she collected were dutifully forwarded to church headquarters.21 In 1931 she attended a camp meeting in NZ.22 She continued to uphold Saturday as the Sabbath but, later in life, also worshipped on Sundays with her fellow islanders.23 They elected her vice-president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union chapter (White Ribbon group). She often addressed meetings for this cause throughout the island and took a leading role in their charity events.24

In December 1953 Malama sailed to Fiji to be part of a delegation to meet the royal visitors, Elizabeth and Philip.25 In 1958 her services to education on Niue were recognized in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list with a Member of the British Empire Award.26 Before Malama passed away on June 13, 1963, she donated a piece of land on which she supervised the building of a home for a resident Adventist missionary. Just three weeks before her death, she had the satisfaction of meeting the incoming missionary.27

Legacy

Malama’s work as a translator and disciple among the Maoris was pioneering efforts. Among her own people on Niue, from 1915 to 1963, she was virtually the sole Adventist missionary. Only twice did other Adventist missionaries stay briefly to assist. For decades the statistics remained as one church and five members but she soldiered on faithfully with her Sabbath School bursting with children. Her persistent Christian witness earned widespread respect for both herself and the Seventh-day Adventist mission.

Sources

"After a period of months..." Australasian Record, March 23, 1942.

Aitken, J[ohn] D. K. "Avondale School Press," Union Conference Record, October 24, 1910.

“An Appreciative Letter.” Australasian Record, February 20, 1911.

Carr, S[eptimus] W. “News from Niue.” Australasian Record, June 18, 1917.

“Decorated by Her Majesty.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 29, 1958.

“From Sister A.G. Head…” Australasian Record, May 30, 1938.

“From the far away island of Niue…” Australasian Record, August 10, 1931.

"From little Niue Island..." Australasian Record, May 20, 1935.

Fulton, J[ohn] F. “The Work in Australasia.” Australasian Record, April 20, 1914.

Fulton, J[ohn] F. “President’s Report.” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.

Head, [Vaiola K]. 1940. “News from Niue.” Australasian Record, February 5, 1940.

Head, Vai[ola] Kerisome. “Niue Island.” Australasian Record, December 13, 1926.

[Head, Vaiola K.]. “From Niue Island.” Australasian Record, January 2, 1928.

Head, Vai[ola] K. “Niue Island.” Australasian Record, April 23, 1928.

Head, Vai[ola] Kerisome. “From Niue Island.” Australasian Record, March 18, 1929.

“In Niue, Sister Vai Kerisome…” Australasian Record, November 29, 1915.

Jacobson, A[rthur] G. “Malama Head obituary.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 22, 1963.

Jones, G[riffiths] F. “A Servant of God in Niue.” Australasian Record, October 23, 1939.

Kerisome, Vai[ola]. "Tofa." Australasian Record, July 6, 1914.

Kerisome, Vai[ola] M. “A Visitor to the Maori Mission.” Australasian Record, December 14, 1914.

Mitchell, D[onald] E. G. “News from Niue.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 22, 1968.

“New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973.” Family Search. Retrieved from https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1609792

“Our readers will be rejoiced…” Australasian Record, July 6, 1914.

"Our readers will remember..." Australasian Record, May 27, 1940.

Palmer, W[illiam] W. "From Sydney to Tonga." Union Conference Record, February 15, 1909.

Parker, C[alvin] H. "Tonga and Fiji." Union Conference Record, January 25, 1909.

Piper, R[eginald] K. and E[mily]. “Work Among the Maoris.” Australasian Record, May 31, 1915.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. Years 1915-1960.

Stewart, A[ndrew] G. “On Furlough in New Zealand.” Australasian Record, January 11, 1915.

Notes

  1. Maria Elizabeth Reid, email message to author, March 22, 2023.

  2. "From Sister A.G. Head..." Australasian Record, May 30, 1938, 8.

  3. W[illiam] W. Palmer, "From Tonga to Sydney," Union Conference Record, February 15, 1909, 2; Calvin H. Parker, "Tonga and Fiji," Union Conference Record, January 25, 1909, 2-3.

  4. J[ohn] D.K. Aitken, "Avondale School Press," Union Conference Record, October 24, 1910, 33-34

  5. Vai[ola] Kerisome, "Tofa," Australasian Record, July 6, 1914, 8.

  6. "Our readers will be rejoiced..." Australasian Record, July 6, 1914, 8.

  7. J[ohn] E. Fulton, "President's Report," Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 1-4.

  8. Vai[ola] M Kerisome, "A Visitor to the Maori Mission," Australasian Record, December 14, 1914, 4-5.

  9. R[eginald] K. Piper and E[mily Piper], "Work Among the Maoris," Australasian Record, May 31, 1915, 4.

  10. "In Niue, Sister Vai Kerisome..." Australasian Record, November 29, 1915, 8.

  11. "Niue Mission," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915), 140.

  12. "On Wednesday, April 5, Pastor S.W. Carr..." Australasian Record, April 17, 1916, 8.

  13. "On my visit to Niue Island..." Australasian Record, July 25, 1938, 8.

  14. Vai[ola] Kerisome Head, "Niue Island," Australasian Record, December 13, 1926, 6-7.

  15. [Vaiola K. Head], "From Niue Island," Australasian Record, January 2, 1928, 3.

  16. "From Niue Island Brother E.J. Giblett..." Australasian Record, June 9, 1924, 8.

  17. Maria Elizabeth Reid, email message to author, March 22, 2023.

  18. A[rthur] G. Jacobson, "Malama Head obituary," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 22, 1963, 15.

  19. "From little Niue Island..." Australasian Record, May 20, 1935, 8.

  20. "Our readers will remember..." Australasian Record, May 27, 1940, 8.

  21. "After a period of months..." Australasian Record, March 23, 1942, 8.

  22. "From the far away island of Niue..." Australasian Record, August 10, 1931, 8.

  23. "Decorated by Her Majesty," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 29, 1958, 1-2.

  24. E.g., Vai[ola] Kerisome Head, "From Niue Island," Australasian Record, March 18, 1929, 4.

  25. A[rthur] G. Jacobson, "Malama Head obituary," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, July 22, 1963, 15.

  26. "Decorated by Her Majesty," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, September 29, 1958, 1-2.

  27. D[onald] E.G. Mitchell, "News from Niue," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, January 22, 1968, 6.

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Hook, Milton. "Head, Vaiola Malama (Kerisome) (c.1890–1963)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. March 29, 2023. Accessed February 26, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E7YL.

Hook, Milton. "Head, Vaiola Malama (Kerisome) (c.1890–1963)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. March 29, 2023. Date of access February 26, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E7YL.

Hook, Milton (2023, March 29). Head, Vaiola Malama (Kerisome) (c.1890–1963). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 26, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=E7YL.